Fusion Drive Thumb

Apple, SSDs, and the Fusion Drive Ripoff: The High Cost of ‘Innovation’

Posted in Apple, Mac on 28/11/2012 by J. Glenn Künzler

95s

When Apple announced their new ultra-thin iMacs and Mac Minis in October 2012, they introduced a new feature called Fusion Drive, a “breakthrough concept” that combines a traditional hard drive with a 128GB SSD, which it uses as a sort of cache to improve overall drive performance.

While it does seem like a good option for many users – combining the speed of an SSD with the storage capacity of a standard drive – there’s an unspoken and extremely devious scheme behind the technology, pressuring users into overpaying for hardware (namely a 128GB SSD) to take advantage of what is, at its core, a software tweak already built into OS X.

It’s also particularly interesting that Apple labels their Fusion Drive technology as a “breakthrough”, when in fact it’s extremely similar to Intel’s Smart Response Technology, which has been around for a while (although there are some differences – such as software-level file handling).

We’ll take a look into what makes Fusion Drive tick, why we believe it’s extremely overpriced, how it pressures users into unnecessarily purchasing more expensive hardware, and why Fusion Drive, combined with Apple’s proprietary SSD connector, is essentially an anti-consumer trick designed to force users into purchasing Apple’s more expensive hardware upgrades rather than cheaper third-party parts.

What is Fusion Drive?

Apple employs a great deal of artful language in describing Fusion Drive – but it’s mostly just smoke and mirrors. At it’s core, Fusion Drive is nothing more than a clever way for an SSD and a traditional hard drive to work together more effectively. It requires no new hardware – just a 128GB Apple-supplied SSD and a traditional hard drive. Everything else is built into OS X. Apple’s iMac page offers the following description of the technology:

Fusion Drive is a breakthrough concept that combines the high storage capacity of a traditional hard drive with the high performance of flash storage. With Fusion Drive in your iMac, disk-intensive tasks — from booting up to launching apps to importing photos — are faster and more efficient.

Fusion Drive works by looking at which files you use most often (including core OS files), and intelligently moving some of those files to the SSD to improve overall data speeds. It’s a matter of combining the best of both SSD technology and the capacity of a regular hard drive.

Apple’s description of Fusion Drive (from the Fusion Drive support document):

Presented as a single volume on your Mac, Fusion Drive automatically and dynamically moves frequently used files to Flash storage for quicker access, while infrequently used items move to the hard disk. As a result you’ll enjoy shorter startup times, and as the system learns how you work you’ll see faster application launches and quicker file access. Fusion Drive manages all this automatically in the background.

An Innovative “Breakthrough Concept”

Apple describes the Fusion Drive as an innovation, and a “breakthrough concept,” painting a picture of something unprecedented that simply hasn’t been done before. In reality, however, this simply isn’t true. Similar technology – such as hybrid drives (ex: Seagate’s Momentus XT), and Intel’s Smart Response Technology.

Apple has polished the ideas fostered in these technologies that came before it by integrating it into OS X and allowing software to intelligently manage SSD caching rather than relying on hard drive firmware, they certainly haven’t created a new idea, or pioneered or revolutionized SSD caching in any truly significant way.

Joel Hruska of ExtremeTech rightly explains away the “breakthrough” nature of Apple’s so-called innovation:

 Apple has dubbed the new option “Fusion Drive” — and with annoying predictability, labeled it a “breakthrough storage option,” despite the fact that Nvelo and Intel have been shipping SSD cache software for well over a year. Now that Apple has acknowledged the technology’s existence, it’s a breakthrough. Fine.

Fusion Drive Pricing

Now that we’re clear on exactly what Fusion Drive is, and what makes it tick, it’s time to move on to the second dark stain in what Apple paints as a magical, consumer-focused technology: Pricing. Apple charges a $250 premium for Fusion Drive.

While a casual consumer who buys into the hype and doesn’t understand what makes Fusion Drive work may consider that reasonable (it’s a “breakthrough” innovation, after all…), the fact of the matter is that the only thing that $250 buys you is a 128GB SSD, which is available for much, much less ($85 at the time of this writing at Amazon.com, and often available for even less).

Apple and SSDs

Unfortunately, remedying Apple’s price gouging isn’t as simple as purchasing your own 128Gb SSD. Apple made sure of that by using their own proprietary SSD connector, introduced with the Retina MacBook Pro, rather than the standard mSATA connection. The third huge dark stain on Fusion Drive.

While some might wrongly think that Apple has pioneered a new and potentially better connector in place of mSATA, the truth of the matter is more disturbing: Apple has merely modified the shape of the existing mSATA connector. As you can see below, the pins between Apple’s connector and standard mSATA match up perfectly. The end result is that you can’t simply purchase a 3rd-party SSD for your new iMac or Retina MacBook Pro. Instead, you have to fork over a premium price to buy an SSD from Apple (the one exception is OWC, who offers a compatible 512GB SSD).

Tweaking a connector in order to force customers into buying upgrades directly from Apple isn’t innovation. It’s an evil, anti-consumer trick veiled under the thin mask of what Apple considers innovation. And it’s increasingly clear that Apple’s definition of the term is quite a bit different than Webster’s definition. Smoke and mirrors.

Forcing Users Into Unnecessary Hardware Upgrades

As if claiming that Fusion Drive is an innovative and visionary “breakthrough” technology and price-gouging users on SSD upgrades wasn’t bad enough, Apple has gone even further, committing a fourth anti-consumer sin: Forcing users to pay for unnecessary hardware upgrades in order to take advantage of Fusion Drive.

At present, Fusion Drive is not available as an option on Apple’s entry-level 21.5-inch iMac (or their entry-level Mac Mini), despite the fact that these entry-level Macs are 100% capable of taking advantage of Fusion Drive from both a hardware and software standpoint. Instead, you have to pay an extra $200 to upgrade your iMac or Mac Mini to the next model up. An extra $200 that a customer might not otherwise spend, that goes straight to the cause of increasing Apple’s already immense cash reserves.

The $250 premium to add Fusion Drive to a Mac has now become a $450 premium. $450 is a damn high price to pay for a 128GB SSD and a bit of magical marketing.

Repair and Upgrade Implications

If you aren’t mortified yet, don’t worry. It gets worse. Aside from costing end users hundreds of extra dollars, Apple’s decision to use their own proprietary SSD connector has one further benefit to Apple (again, at the cost of end users), and sums up Apple’s 5th anti-consumer sin with the new Macs: The inability to upgrade or repair their iMac or Mac Mini without bringing it to Apple.

While that works for Macs that are under warranty, Apple’s 1-year hardware coverage expires faster than most realize when using their Mac – and replacing a bad SSD, or upgrading after their initial purpose, becomes very, very expensive.

Advantages

Apple’s highly overpriced Fusion Drive certainly comes at a cost. But surely it’s worth it in terms of the advantages you gain, right? For most users, the answer, unfortunately, is probably not. Adding your own external Thunderbolt SSD or buying an aftermarket SSD from eBay, adding them in addition to the standard 1TB hard drive, and managing SSD storage yourself (by storing OS X, certain applications, your home folder, etc. on the SSD), and using the spinning hard drive as file storage, the vast majority of users will experience nearly every advantage that Fusion Drive has to offer – at a fraction of the cost.

For users who don’t mind bending over and forking out $450, however, Fusion Drive does simplify the process. It’s up to you whether that simplicity is worth a huge chunk of your hard-earned cash.

The End Result: An Overpriced Blow to Consumer Wallets

So far, we’re left with the notion that Apple has committed at least 5 rather blatant anti-consumer mask, veiled beneath magical marketing terms and the label of “innovation.” That’s OK, though – those repair costs and inflated hardware upgrades go directly to feeding hungry Apple technicians, and buying Jony Ive’s next custom-designed Italian sports car.

The end result of Apple’s crafty anti-consumer design “improvements”, the hardware price gouging that goes along with it, and the inability to repair an iMac without seeking Apple’s help (or an Apple Authorized Technician) is that your shiny new $1500+ iMac is essentially a disposable appliance. Like a toaster or a cheap hand mixer. Planned obsolescence at it’s worst.

Solutions

If you don’t want to pay $450 for a 128GB SSD (and who in their right mind would want to?), there are options. First, you can simply refuse to pay Apple for their Fusion Drive upgrade, and instead install a traditional hard drive in the iMac or Mac Mini hard drive bay (or a cheaper 3rd-party SSD, if you crave speed). You can also buy SSDs on eBay that have been taken out of Retina MacBook Pros or, soon, taken out of iMacs. Installing one, then reinstalling OS X should enable Fusion Drive (assuming Apple hasn’t done something dastardly to prevent you from trying to save money).

Assuming that Apple has blocked consumers from simply buying an aftermarket SSD to enable Fusion Drive, a second option is to “roll your own”. Since Apple’s Fusion Drive is entirely software-based, it can be enabled by ambition users with a bit of clever hacking. Check out our tutorial article for all the details on making this work.

Wrapping it Up

I like Apple. I love Macs. And I like supporting companies who offer great products that help their customers. But It’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand behind Apple as they continue to take advantage of customers with extra cash – and who aren’t aware of just how badly they’re being gouged.

Ever since the release of the Retina MacBook Pro, Apple seems to be headed in a dangerous direction – at the cost of the customers they should be serving. It’s sad to see a great company like Apple essentially abusing customers in this way, and it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Shame. For the time being, unless you really feel that Apple’s unfortunate design decisions are for the better, and don’t mind forking over unnecessary cash to pay for imported cars, leather handbags, and shiny toys for Apple executives, I’d encourage most consumers to shy away from Apple’s Fusion Drive.

For Apple, “innovation” apparently comes at an extremely high cost – and I, for one, feel consumers should call them on that.

Update (9/25/2013): Apple has since begun offering the Fusion Drive upgrade on their entry-level iMac and Mac mini models. Further, following the release of the new late 2013 iMacs,  the price of the Fusion Drive upgrade has dropped to $200 from $250. The fact remains, however, that the only thing $200 buys you is a 128GB SSD, which is available for much, much less (many choices available at $100 at Amazon at the time of this writing, and often available for even less) elsewhere.



  • Chris

    It’s a hybrid drive. Look at prices of hybrid drives. This article is terrible. It’s a $250 option, not $450 – which you try to justify by saying you have to change models. That’s some wack way to come to that conclusion. No, the drive is $250. Look up prices for hybrid drives. Look at their capacity. You’re not paying $250 for JUST 128GB flash, you’re upgrading the drive. I can’t magically add a flash drive into my iMac or MacBook and still retain my regular drive. You take a lot of liberties in how you present the data to get what you want to say. So much logic bending to make a point that isn’t even real.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      It’s a $250 option – but you can only choose it if you upgrade from the low-end to the next higher model. That’s another $200. Hence, $450.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment. We appreciate it!

      • Techpm

        But then you’re not paying $450 just for a SSD drive as you say in the article.

        I wish people wouldn’t distort facts just to make their point stand out.

        • Chris

          Exactly

          • Kevin Boyles

            I am running a late 2011 17″ macbook pro (The last macbook pro apple made) and I replaced my dvd drive with an optibay adapter and a 128gb ssd for about $130. I reinstalled mac os and setup my own fusion drive. The setup is great and going from 7200 rpm drive to fusion drive setup is great. However as I think about upgrading to a newer mac in the future and find it discouraging how apple is forcing you to pay an extra premium to upgrade while making it harder if not impossible to upgrade them yourself. The new retina macbook pros have soldered in ram and of course ssd that uses apples propriety connector. Also they limit your options if you want to buy a new mac and if you get the base model non-retina macbook pro they dont even give you the option to get 16gb of ram! I love my 17″ macbook pro – it cost me about $80 to put 16gb of ram in it, has a great 1gb radeon 6770m gpu and a quad core i7 2.4ghz. The retina display is nice however not worth the premium to me.

        • http://www.facebook.com/mike.walley.35 Mike Walley

          His point is that you have to upgrade from the base model to the mid level which adds an additional $200 to the base purchase price, then add $250 on top of that for a total of $450.

          Most people, myself included, start at the bottom of the model lines to see if it fits my needs, so its a valid point. Guess you guys start at the top.

          • Chris

            Yup, never buy bottom line. Learned my lesson twice. Bottom is the worst value

          • http://www.facebook.com/chazwatson Chaz Watson

            Actually, that’s wrong. Choose the $1,299.00 model and upgrade the 1TB drive to a 1TB Fusion Drive for another $250. It’s a $250 upgrade.

          • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

            It was correct at the time. Apple only very recently added the Fusion Drive upgrade option to the base level 21.5-inch iMac.

      • http://www.isights.org/ Michael Long

        He has a point, in that you continually say things like, “If you don’t want to pay $450 for a 128GB SSD…” Which is false to fact.

        You’re paying, in the case of an iMac, for a 128GB SSD and a faster processor and for a faster graphics card. Now, the true question is if ALL of those things are worth $450 to you or not?

        Incidentally, $89 is the cheapest SSD on Amazon, and that one has a lot of negative comments. Many are $100$, $120, and even $140. Without specs, you’re comparing Apples to oranges.

        But if you averaged out the costs and included the upgrade features, the rationalizations for your rant would diminish, would they not?

    • Scott

      It’s not a hybrid drive. You clearly did not read anything. And yes, you can “magically” add a SSD into your iMac or Macbook

      • Chris

        While retaining my regular HD (so that I have BOTH) and not voiding the warranty by replacing the DVD caddy with an HD caddy? Let me know thanks.

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          There is no DVD drive in the new iMacs.

          • Chris

            Exactly, so there’s only one spot for a drive. So my comparison to buying a hybrid for a replacement still holds. There’s no comparable hybrid on the market – in my opinion

      • Chris

        And I guess what I was getting at, is that it’s ‘like’ a hybrid drive. Where, for example, I can’t add that SSD later to make it a “fusion” drive. I’d have to go buy a Hybrid drive, but it won’t be the same.

  • Techpm

    Another point is that Apple’s SSD connector is different because they are already selling SSD configurations up to 768GB, while the current maximum for standard mSATA is only 256GB.

    • SilentReign -

      But, their 768GB option replaces the regular hard drive, which uses a regular SATA connector, not the mSATA connector that is also present in the machine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=682530287 Glenn Stewart

    Firstly, the original hybrid drives are rubbish. They have a small cache and write are written through to the disk. Everything you later read has to be read of disk anyway (which is slow). Real world speed increase is negligible.

    The Fusion Drive is similar to the Intel SRT in that it requires two physical pieces of hardware: 1. an SSD drive and 2. A standard HDD.

    Intel restricts SRT to a 64GB SDD, whereas Fusion comes with 128GB (and is possible to use any size SSD).

    In standard enhanced mode, the SSD becomes a write-through cache. Data is by default written to the hard disk with the main benefit occuring to the write. Reads are as per normal HDD, because it always has to be read off drive.
    Maximized mode is more similar to Fusion, which requires a second read before it’s consider cache worthy and stored on SSD in the interim. The speed benefit comes from this – although with 64GB, even regularly read data will need to be pulled back off the drive.

    The major benefit of the Fusion drive is that 100% of writes under 4GB (*) are written purely to SSD with no write out to disk. If you’re working with files within this size, you use SSD for both reads and writes. (* = There is always 4GB free on the SSD, if there is more free space, then reads/writes will always land there. Anything over 4GB is written out to disk).

    With 128GB (or even more if you contruct your own Fusion drive – 768GB SSD + HDD is possible), and the 4GB landing zone in place, it’d likely that commonly used files will be pure SSD for reads and writes.

    Variance here is that Intel’s SRT requires 1 additional read to be pulled into SSD, whereas the Fusion requires 3 additional.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      That’s great information. Thanks for sharing!

      • Michael Long

        As of today, Jan 7, Apple began offering the Fusion Drive as an option on the entry-level 21.5-inch iMac.

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          Indeed. I heard about that. Thanks!

          J. Glenn Künzler
          Managing Editor, MacTrast.com
          Glenn@MacTrast.com | (435) 730-2364 | http://MacTrast.com

          Utah, USA. Time Zone: MT

  • Kisteaz

    If you dont have money, just dont buy any Apple product. You already know that every Apple product is overpriced.

  • Taylorconor

    If the fusion drive is being monitored at a software level, surely you can install two drives, an SSD and a HDD, pay half the price, and make them appear to software to be a single ‘fusion’ drive??

  • STL

    Well for the Apple haters, that must get their daily dose of Apple hate, the article above should suffice

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      It’s not Hate. I love Apple. I’m just disappointed to see them pricing it in such an unfortunate way.

      • AdamChew

        If you think the price is not to your taste you need not buy it but bad mouthing Apple may just work because everyone who bad mouth Apple always seem to claim they love Apple products.

        Time to call a spade a spade.

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          I disagree. I think Apple is doing the wrong thing here. I’ve owned a number of Macs. I love the iPhone and iPad – I spend a ton of money on Apple products. But some of their practices seem wrong to me, so I speak my mind about them. If you read my past articles, you’ll see that my thoughts about Apple are overwhelmingly positive.

          • http://twitter.com/RoninM MRonin

            This is why I keep coming back to Mactrast. While I take a more centrist view of the Fusion Drive (because I do see the value in it, even though it comes at an absurd price), I still see where this article is coming from. I’ve held the same view on the cost of upgrading the RAM in a Mac for decades now because they absolutely gouge you on the cost of RAM. This is a widely known fact and one that sticks in my skin every time I buy a new Apple for work and have to shell out extra for the RAM because someone can’t wait an extra day for the memory to arrive from a different vendor. Of course now with the new Retina MBP that isn’t an option, but I digress.

            My point is this, yes the article is very ‘op-ed’ style which I think tweaks folks a bit. However the point is still valid because Apple is playing an extremely high stakes game with many of their design and business choices. One of them being the ridiculous cost of a Fusion Drive. However they know they can pull it off because people still give them double+ the cost of RAM ever day for the sake of not having to do it themselves. COULD one roll their own Fusion Drive or utilize a drive with Intel’s technology and garner much the same benefit? Yes, but as is stated in the article it’s good to ask yourself the question “is the convenience worth the cost”? If the answer is yes, then more power to you. If the answer is no and you feel as though a company you’ve had a long term relationship with is intentionally engaging in highly questionable pricing policies. Then it’s by all means proper to say so, we SHOULD fight hardest for the companies that have in the past and to a large degree presently, act in the best interest of their customer base. We SHOULD question the most, the companies that claim to want to deliver to it’s customers the best product possible. So as to ensure those companies are delivering on their claims and continuing to act in the best interest of their customers and their own bottom line.

          • JimGresham

            Ronin,

            Beautifully put, sir.

      • JimGresham

        I’m with Glenn here.

    • Bally Woods

      For retarded Apple cultists nothing will make them understand them getting screwed.

      • Troll hater

        Once again, well done on your command of English ….”make them understand them getting screwed”………what a Troll!

        • Motto

          Interesting. I came here looking for info on fusion drive and came away with not much more than a heated discussion of Mac vs Pc marketing strategies.

  • dmw2001

    Actually, Apple is simply pursuing it’s long term agenda, most obviously stated when they dropped “Computer” from their name. That is, they are creating an ecosystem that is wholly unique within the consumer electronics realm. They are not interested in compatibility, even with their own older gear. They are a for profit business. Unlike computer companies, their gear is design to “just work” and they don’t want us to hack around under the hood to “roll our own.” Soon Mac OSX will only run apps run through their store. Hackers will be able to bypass, but most of us will not. This is the legacy of Jobs and it will not go away. It is driving the company.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      There’s a traditional hard drive bay, plus a slot for a blade-style SSD. So not a true hybrid.

      • dmw2001

        huh?

      • NyteFyre22

        You are arguing that a customer is going to care where exactly the hardware is put into the computer.
        You could call it a Magic Awesome drive and the Mac consumer could care less. Especially mac users, which as a whole are less tech savvy than your average user.

    • Irma

      If Apple did that they’d lose many customers. Essentially every one of them that is wanting to buy a computer.

      • dmw2001

        If Apple did what, Irma? Not provide compatibility? FCPX. Pages. GUID. Or do you mean only selling Apps through their store? They tighten that down with every major OS release. I would not be surprised if they announce MacOSNeXT that all is fully controlled by Apple and enforced by EULA. As it is, there are those who say Apple can deactivate software on your computer w/o your permission. (Only that purchased through App store? Can’t remember.)

  • tvalleau

    OMG… The parts in a Ford, and the parts in a Mercedes cost almost the same, but Mercedes is RIPPING OFF customers by over-charging!

    • George

      And, you get better seats in the Mercedes and pay $30K more. THOSE SEATS COST $30K, OUTRAGE!

    • hohopig

      Still think this way? A two year old (or even longer) delusion? :P

  • Macs R We

    “Apple’s 5th anti-consumer sin with the new Macs: The inability to upgrade or repair their iMac or Mac Mini without bringing it to Apple.”

    Add a sixth: Apple is intent on squeezing out the independent Apple-Certified Technicians, where you used to be able to get more cost-effective repair labor. Three years ago, Apple stopped allowing them access to their hardware diagnostics. This year, they stopped making their repair manuals available to the independents for any models more recent than late 2011. Now your only option is to search out an Apple-Authorized Service Provider… and Apple is no longer accepting applications for this program.

    • antagonizer

      cult

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bob-Forsberg/100001387343371 Bob Forsberg

    Apple seems to have pissed you off recently. Write about something worthwhile hearing about.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Nope. I have a problem with what they’re doing with Fusion Drive and proprietary SSDs – but I’m still a fan of Apple on the whole!

      • antagonizer

        Sports teams need fans, but hardware companies?

        • Michael Long

          Sports teams already have too many airheads as fans.

          Find something else meaningful to do instead of spending all of your time watching a bunch of well-muscled guys running around playing with their balls.

          Unless, of course, you like watching a bunch of well-muscled guys running around playing with their balls. (grin)

  • doug

    Ok, so point 1 is that it is too expensive but the other options from the likes of Nevlo are not $85 ether, they are closer to $200 so your first sin…Not so much!

    Onto number 2 and yes, apple only offers this with their higher end systems. I think this is a mistake but probably not evil as we can see in point number 3.

    3 Repair/Upgrade. You point out a company that makes a compatible SSD. And there are thousands of Apple authorized service centers. Apple has done nothing to limit the software to their hardware (as has been proven). So there may be no reason to modify the connector, but there is also nothing stoping vendors from supporting it and you making your own.

    You finish up with this stupid argument of planned obsolescence, but oddly Apple computers have historically Macs are used longer and have better resell value than similar windows computers. When Apple first sealed a battery into a laptop case, average laptop battery life was 2-4 hours and their laptop provided 7-8 hours in a much smaller sleeker form-factor. So, were manufactures simply ripping off consumers with crappy batteries in bad cases or did Apple make a design choice that has proven to be very popular?

  • Steve D

    Interesting thoughts. I’m in line for a new computer, and looking at these options the pricing structure is a bit like getting lost in an IKEA store.

    You start off by thinking “oh that fusion drive sounds nice…” So I go to the base model, but I can’t buy it on that one, I can upgrade the RAM which I’d like to do. “Sure OK, the model up then…” but then when you max that out (due to not being able to upgrade the RAM, which most will want to do) it’s then more than the 27″. At that point (for me at least) the Fusion becomes a no-go, as the computer itself is expensive enough. This is a shame, and I take your points. I think the Fusion should be available on all models ideally, especially as that model does support it. So for the user who wants more than base, you are looking at a choice between Small Screen/Less RAM/Fusion Drive vs Big Screen/More RAM/No Fusion Drive.

    There is a choice to be made there, but a base 21″ with a Fusion Drive would make that choice far simpler.

  • Alex Cumbers

    People, some of you guys are not getting the important point of this article which is about pricing, and the perception about innovation.

    Apple has always charged a premium price for a premium product. People don’t often get Apple until they start using the products, beautiful hardware married with quantifiably easier and more pleasurable to use software. They also have the best marketing in the world (apart from awful iPad plane ads!) so they can cleverly spin the message about innovation.

    Prices for the entry level products are pretty reasonable, you’re buying more than a product, an experience that fits elegantly into an Ecosystem that is manageable by the average user (i.e: most people). Just look at how nice the packaging of every product is.

    The point is, when you (often want to) move beyond the entry level product, prices move up completely disproportionally. This noticeably started happening when Retina MacBook Pros arrived that introduced solid state, non upgradeable only disks.

    Remember that Apple will likely get the best possible pricing for memory. In the UK they are charging around $400 to (just) go from 128GB -> 256GB disk for Retina Display & MacBook Air!! This is a HUGE increase for a capacity that many people desire, thus will be enticed to pay the extra. And it cannot be changed easily if at all. Also, proprietary changes such as the mSATA connection change does indeed appear to be evil, why not allow users to upgrade later.

    Remember the days when Apple memory was 3-4 times the price you could get elsewhere (e.g Crucial), now it’s a sensible fair price. Hopefully within a year or two, SSD prices will come down & third parties will find ways to upgrade various components.

    An excellent alternative to a Fusion Disk (for basic users), is the Seagate Momentus 750GB 2.5″ Hybrid drive, which stores commonly used data in its 8GB SSD cache. Works very effectively, to bring new life to your Mac at reasonable cost (£100), especially for laptops. You can also easily fit two of these drives into the space of one 3.5″ drive.

    The bottom line, is 99% existing and new users will pay for Apple kit, and Apple’s markets are expanding. It’s just a shame because Apple could so easily afford to offer more (Mac) value pricing without much impact on their bottom line.

    Apple likes to control (and charge) for the whole (premium) experience. Hopefully in doing so, this does lead to better reliability & a better experience.

    • Bally Woods

      LOL @ Apple retards defending getting fucked by them!

      • Troll hater

        Wow your point is so well articulated and backed up by the many facts you brought forth on your own. People like you should be relegated to illiteracy where you belong you freaking troll!

  • H

    “But surely it’s worth it in terms of the advantages you gain, right? For most users, the answer, unfortunately, is probably not. Adding your own external Thunderbolt SSD or buying an aftermarket SSD from eBay, adding them in addition to the standard 1TB hard drive, and managing SSD storage yourself (by storing OS X, certain applications, your home folder, etc. on the SSD), and using the spinning hard drive as file storage, the vast majority of users will experience nearly every advantage that Fusion Drive has to offer – at a fraction of the cost.”

    I think you may be missing the point that “most users” do not have the technical skills to even understand that paragraph.

    • Toby

      Surely adding a Thunderbolt SSD wouldn’t require that much in the way of technical skills…

      • http://www.facebook.com/chazwatson Chaz Watson

        You’re talking about reinstalling the OS onto a removable drive, backing up all user data, reformatting the spinning disk, and putting back only the user data onto the spinning disk. You think regular people can do that?

        • hohopig

          It is not exactly rocket science as well. Most just need to be pointed in the right direction. Let’s not treat users like complete idiots like Old Stevie likes to do.

          • Chaz Watson

            No, most would end up at the Apple store with a botched upgrade. Not even a regular idiot can do what’s required.

  • Realist

    Good ole Steve Jobs will be happy to see that the Kool-Aid is still flowing!

  • bitbank

    “Apple seems to be headed in a dangerous direction”. This is a surprising thing to say. Apple has been overcharging for their gear since day 1. In the early days (e.g. late ’70s) when the Apple II cost about $57 to make, they were still charging more than $1200 while the competition had similar machines for less than $500. This is nothing new, it’s just the price of being in the Apple club.

    • Michael Long

      The PET was $800 and B&W only, limited to 8K RAM, non-expandable. The Atari 400 was $550, membrane keyboard, and pretty much a non-expandable game console, complete with cartridges. The TRS-80 was $600, B&W,16K max and again, non-expandable.

      The Apple II was color, maxed at 48K RAM, and had 8 internal expansion slots. Yep, it was more expensive, but you had an upgradeable computer you could use long after the others needed to be replaced.

  • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

    That’s a fair point.

  • Disgruntled Mac User

    I’m totally with you on this. As a former Apple employee, I’ve been rubbed the wrong way a lot recently as well. The worst was when they denied me service on my 13″ MacBook Pro that was a few days out of warranty when it clearly had come from the factory with a defective logic board. The smug Apple store employees decided they didn’t like me, but meanwhile they give other random people tons of free stuff and replace their phones/computers for free without any illusion of a warranty. I also had them argue with me about replacing one of their stupid defective magsafe connectors even after I’d shown them the Apple support page announcing this was a known issue and they would replace it for free. I had to pull out my employee badge to get the manager off my case. Ridiculous. Learn to make a cable.

  • Jeroen

    Good article! But you forgot about another important evil thing. For those who only want an SSD’s (no Fusion) there aren’t any realistic options. The 21,5″ iMac doesn’t support SSD’s and the 27″ ONLY offers a 768 GB version (without options for more afforable 256 of 512 GB SSD’s) for a blazing price of an extra $ 1300 (or € 1300, which equals $ 1800). SSD is the future, but Apple don’t wants you to use it. They only want that customers buy their Fusion drives…

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      That’s a great point.

  • Francis

    Start learning to build a hackintosh, less expensive, more repairable and better hardware choices

    • Chris

      Yeah, sounds great, until you need software updated. Need support? Too bad, on your own with that one. But, I guess you expect 10 million people to learn to not only put together a computer but also hack something that’s not for it’s proper use. Of course you could do that. Bravo for all the Linux/Windows tinker/build-it-yourself people doing what they want. Sometimes, people just want to buy stuff that works and does what they want, not mess around for 2 days putting something together and hope nothing breaks with every update.

      • Antony Gallagher

        Building a hackintosh really isn’t that hard … there is no real hacking. lol. Simply join the forums .. they usually list all compatible hardware … which is a freaking ton now … and they will link the OSX download or what not.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ajgray23 Andy Gray

    If you’re going to talk about prior art, you could mention that EMC has been doing this since the early 1990′s. It’s the original idea behind the Symmetrix — achieve near-RAM speeds at a fraction of the cost of memory by intelligent caching.

    I’m sure Apple and Intel both are using Moshe Yanai’s patents. It’s not anything like an innovation.

  • BT

    I was boggled by this Fusion Drive when I saw it. I needed a new iMac so I got one with a Fusion drive, I fear it will end up in the garbage pretty soon. I am not impressed.

  • James

    All so true. Apparently being the richest company in the world isn’t enough. I’m just hoping their SSD prices come down when they finally deem their own Anobit drives to be ready for use in macs.

  • mac4ever

    I needed a fast mac for LOGIC. I’ve taken a Mini the the 2,6 GHz i7 option and put 16 GB RAM in it, connected it with a 180 GB external SSD via USB3 and the system boots in 21 sec, Geekbench 12400, and is fast as never before since I use macs, that means since 1999. Who needs a Fusion Drive?

  • herba

    Anyone knows if there is a utility to see whats on the fusion drive? I have noticed a huge disk speed increase after 3 days of playing World of Warcraft. Its pretty obvious it was moved to the SSD. So I am wondering if we can see whats on the SSD and whats on the HD

  • Nuxsoonkau

    Should I buy the 2.9 processor with a fusion drive or 3.1 processor and no fusion for everyday email, web surfing, picture video editing, and word processing.

    • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

      Won’t make much of a difference for light usage such as yours.

      • Nuxsoonkau

        What in your opinion would be best setup then for my iMac 21.5. Just opinion is ok. $2000 budget

        • http://MacTrast.com J. Glenn Kunzler

          Personally, I’d max out the RAM to 16GB and stop there. I probably wouldn’t spend extra on the processor or Fusion Drive. But that’s my personal preferences coming into play. I don’t trust Fusion Drive yet. I want to see where it stands after a year, and see what issues arise in that time.

  • http://www.facebook.com/hlim431 Horace Lim

    Thanks for the great article, as an early & continuous Mac user from 1986 to me it is as clear as day that Apple is suffering from a resurgence of consumer abuse, driven by a desperate attempt to keep the share price sky-high by maximising profit more reminiscent of the John Sculley Era. The fact that the share price has gone from $705 to $435 in less than 5 months means institutions also know that “the Steve Jobs’ run” has ended. Alas Apple is destined to return to the days of “love the product but hate the company” which nearly saw Apple go bankrupt… As an Apple lover it makes me VERY sad to see this.

    The customer abuse goes on at many levels in addition to those you mentioned, from changing macbook power connectors (I have 8-10), gouging $200 for a 16GB to 64GB memory in iPhones which cost $5-8 at the factory or $25 at Radioshack, complete idiotically changing micro-SIM card to nano-SIMs after already making the mini to micro transition previously, and, not to mention a huge 775% price rise in ASP compared to the legacy 30-pin connector (was $0.40 now $3.50) and all this without offering any tangible benefits like Thunderbolt. There must be several hundreds of companies making iPod/iPhone 30-pin accessories and speakers cursing Apple for destroying their sales just to extort licensing fees.

    It doesn’t give me a “warm feeling” knowing I am being gouged, especially as I purchase the most highly specified Macbooks (iPads, iPhones), with as much RAM as I can get and as much SSD I can get… I was hoping to install a OCZ Octane OCT 1TB SATA 3 (Apple maxes out a 750GB). Even worst, most likely I’ll be replicating my purchase for the rest of the company (execs and developers) so this all adds up!

    • Irma

      This type of behaviour is commonplace when decision makers within a company own shares.

  • Antony Gallagher

    This article is pretty biased honestly … all of the MBP’s use flash and not fusion … the ONLY one that actually has to upgrade to use fusion is the mini. Even there … you get a boost in performance outside of harddrives making the purchase well worth while. Macs have never really been huge ”upgrade me” type computers. Most industry based people in film production or even audio recording would prosper with this. How can you argue that this is a rip off and not a breakthrough in technology because another company offers CLOSE to the same thing with half of the size … technically .. this is a breakthrough in that technology … no one has managed to create a drive as large. Apple’s ”clever wording” is not really clever at all. I don’t find it the slightest bit misleading. This article is clearly an Apple hateicle. It’s pretty biased and you let that shine.

    The worst part was the having to upgrade to a mid level mac for fusion drives … ALL companies limit hardware in lower end models. They always have .. apple isn’t doing anything new. I can’t go buy the lowest form of an HP for say and expect to get a powerful graphics card or a bluray player …. there is no logic in this article.

    • Antony Gallagher

      I guess even Apple fans have to let out some hate every now and then. haha

  • Alexey Pankov

    Apple is sucking your bucks without giving you performance, try to write more then 128Gb on the your Fusion drive and run tests again. Apple decide to make bucks and don’t even give an option in iMacs just to install normal SSD. There is no point of Fusion drive in low end iMacs because Apple use 2.5″ 5400 rpm HD in this iMacs, imagine the speed. :) Anyway, iMacs now for rich suckers. Geeks never will buy iMac.

  • jedics

    apple will milk the jobs legacy for another decade but the moment he died they just became another computer company with little more vision than the money that will be made from a long line of incremental upgrades. You can see this happening across the board and indeed it was happening before jobs died. Then I would tolerate it because simply there was no competitor to how user friendly their designing is. Now I just look at the iphone 5 which is just a sad case of function taking a second place to form. I dont remember anyone saying the 4s was to thick but I do remember many complaining about battery life, Instead they make it thinner rather than put a bigger battery in. Same goes for the Retina laptop, taking away functionality purely to make it thinner. I come from a long line of mac devotees, almost none of them have iphones as they refuse to pay $1000 for a device they cant use as they please, preventing you using it as as even a simple HDD and forcing you to sync itunes to every computer you connect it to.

    computer systems must move towards being ubiquitous to unify the human race with the digital life fully, where it no longer matters which is apple or pc, it should just be an interface that anyone can understand and use instantly and invisibly.

    sad face

  • http://www.facebook.com/dasilva.1980 João da Silva

    This “sounds” a lot like Apple-hatred.
    Comparing this to a hybrid drive is just wrong.
    This is more like using an SSD and a HDD separately using storage management software. Similar – but not quite – to RAID, hybrids or whatever.
    FDrive seems to be a really nice feature for those who work with (really) large files but a bit unnecessary for everyone else.
    Having said that, I’d pay the extra 250 for it. Yes, 250, because I wouldn’t buy an iMac without a hard drive, now would I?

  • fasdas

    I’m going to spend hours rigging up something to save $400, NOT.

  • kalamaloo

    I love how all these pieces always claim, “While a casual consumer who buys into the hype and doesn’t understand…” These windows fanboys always claim to be the martyr. Oh no, these evil companies always trying to take advantage of these idiot consumers. Windows users believe since their computers have more errors and viruses, they are more technical at computers and know more.

    Apple users just want to be left alone and use their more refined machines while the windows fanboys always come up with bullshit to explain why their choice in computers is better.

    In my current financial situation, iMacs do not suite me. I use a hackintosh and don’t know too much about the iMac’s specs. I’m a media whore and need terabytes of space. I’m too cheap to get a drobo, so I have a hackintosh with 14TB quad core etc etc.

    Although iMacs don’t suit me currently, I do see a situation where I’ll be living in a small space or want a computer to not take up much space. In this situation iMacs would be awesome and I could network my storage and access it remotely.

    Today I’ve decided to learn about fusion drive out of accident and have stumbled upon this site. Now, my initial perception of fusion was negative. Conceptually, I’m not a fan of SSD/HD combos. However, I do appreciate it as a feature. From what I read, it’s the best combo solution out there.

    Finally, back to my point. It seems as if the author is on a mission to push his/her choice onto others. He/she picks a Apple feature and tries to explain why it’s bad under the premise that he/she must save all these unsuspecting idiots from making the wrong choice.

    I read up to the part with a screenshot of the pricing options. When I noticed the fusion drive was an OPTIONAL extra at a high price of $250, I just couldn’t keep reading. The author had lost all credibility. Do you really think people would just select the $250 button without any research?

  • james braselton

    hi there wait a minute thats a lie hybride drives have large cach not small cach small cach is 8 mb too 32 mb cach mid cach 128 mb too 1 gb cach large cach is over 4 gb or larger 128 gb is gaint extra large cach my macbook air 256 gb flash storage

  • milo

    “the only thing $200 buys you is a 128GB SSD”

    Not entirely true. The new SSD are pcie and much faster. If you’re going to price compare to other SSD options you need to match that speed to make it a legitimate comparison.

  • k mitnik

    you kind of missed the point here. the fusion drive isn’t a hard drive with a ssd cache, it is a hybrid drive, i.e. two drives working seamlessly together as one volume. files are not copied to the ssd, they are moved between drives. because it is a hybrid drive the capacity is 3tb + 128gb.

    in terms of value i think the 3tb fusion drive with 128gb ssd drive upgrade on my imac that cost an additional £120 (circa $200) over a 1tb normal hd is great value. a comparable 3tb 7200 drive at the moment costs around £90, and a decent 128gb ssd is £70, while a 1tb drive is still around £50. so i’ve only paid £10 more to have a single drive that incorporates both into one unit and copies stuff to where i need it on the fly. no contest.

    to suggest users buy an imac without fusion drive is nonsense, it is what makes the computer great. it just flies.

    ..but i totally agree with you on the connector thing. very annoying and apple should stop doing it.

  • Jazzduck

    I have a 1.2TB Fusion Drive set up on my MacBook Pro, and I can say that there is so much about this article that is simply and utterly untrue, it’s shameful.

    First: “[Apple is] pressuring users into overpaying for hardware (namely a 128GB SSD)…” FALSE. Apple never pressured me into adding a Fusion Drive to my MacBook Pro – probably because they don’t even offer Fusion Drive on MBPs. I had to decide to upgrade it on my own. Apple didn’t provide me with any assistance whatsoever. I didn’t even buy the drives from them – I bought them from NewEgg at what were pretty competitive prices.

    Second: “…to take advantage of what is, at its core, a software tweak already built into OS X.” FALSE. The Core Storage techniques that are used to implement a Fusion Drive were not added to OS X until the first models with the Fusion Drive option were shipping. The ability to use a Fusion Drive was not “already built into OS X” as the author claims, it was released at the same time.

    Third: “It requires … a 128GB Apple-supplied SSD and a traditional hard drive.” FALSE. A Fusion Drive will work with any combination of SSD and HDD, regardless of who supplies the components. Mine uses a Samsung SSD and a Western Digital HDD, neither of which were purchased from Apple.

    Fourth: “Apple has polished the ideas fostered in these technologies that came before it by integrating it into OS X and allowing software to intelligently manage SSD caching rather than relying on hard drive firmware, they certainly haven’t … pioneered or revolutionized SSD caching in any truly significant way.” FALSE. While it’s true to say that Apple hasn’t revolutionized SSD caching, that’s because Fusion Drive isn’t SSD caching at all. Fusion Drive isn’t a caching system. It doesn’t keep multiple copies of your data like an SSD caching system does. OS X doesn’t “intelligently manage SSD caching” even a little bit. Fusion Drive is based on a completely separate idea called tiered storage – not that this author knows, or cares.

    Fifth: “Unfortunately, remedying Apple’s price gouging isn’t as simple as purchasing your own 128Gb SSD. Apple made sure of that by using their own proprietary SSD connector … rather than the standard mSATA connection. The third huge dark stain on Fusion Drive.” FALSE. Fusion Drive doesn’t care how your drives are connected. My SSD is connected via the main SATA bus and my HDD is connected via the secondary SATA bus where the optical drive used to be. Just because the first model which shipped with Fusion Drive happens to have a proprietary SSD connector, this author assumes that Fusion Drive requires that connector, which is a totally baseless assumption. And, as I already mentioned, avoiding Apple’s price gouging was, in fact, just as simple as purchasing my own SSD.

    Sixth: “[Fusion Drive provides] one further benefit to Apple … The inability to upgrade or repair their iMac or Mac Mini without bringing it to Apple.” FALSE. There is an entire global network of third-party Apple-Authorized Service Providers which employ Apple-Certified Repair Technicians. I should know; I was one. I didn’t need to take my MacBook Pro to Apple to install my Fusion Drive, and I won’t need to take it to them if it breaks.

    Seventh: “Apple has blocked consumers from simply buying an aftermarket SSD to enable Fusion Drive…” FALSE. Where does this author think I got my Fusion Drive from? (Hint: it’s an aftermarket SSD and HDD.)

    Eighth: “[U]nless you … don’t mind forking over unnecessary cash to pay for imported cars, leather handbags, and shiny toys for Apple executives, I’d encourage most consumers to shy away from Apple’s Fusion Drive.” FALSE. Not one penny of what I paid to upgrade to a Fusion Drive went to Apple. How exactly does the author believe that my money would have found it’s way from NewEgg to Apple? Does he believe that NewEgg somehow knows what I’m doing with the parts I’ve purchased, and sends Apple a check based on whether or not I configure the software a certain way? Please. He’s passed from simply being wrong to literally making up fantasies.

    This article was clearly written by someone who was far more interested in trying to score some points with the anti-Apple crowd than actually knowing what he’s talking about. The operators of this website should be embarrassed to be hosting this article; do you even read things before you publish them? And whoever employed this author should be embarrassed to have paid him for it, because they didn’t get anything useful for their money.

    In the immortal words of Dr. Perry Cox: “Wrong wrong wrong wrong, wrong wrong wrong wrong. You’re wrong; you’re wrong; you’re wrong.”

  • jackieaxe

    My fusion drive doesn’t work. I bought my mac to use for recording. The fusion drive audio stream through its $30 firewire cable stops at random and doesn’t restart. The apple store told me to screw.

  • Irma

    The complaints are valid, but this gouging on upgrades is not unique to Apple. Every company does it, whether it is computers or cars. Whether it is add-ons or having to move up a model to get one additional feature Neither are they unusual in calling everything a breakthrough. Innovation is another word that gets thrown around so much it has become meaningless.

  • shambles1980

    its strange to see the apple fans defending this.

    new Linux users are eliteists and think they are better.

    windows users just want to do everything they can do on a system and are some of the most enthusiastic, and upgrade constantly. they will argue over the hardware to chose. but most of them will tell you “well buy it if you want to spend a lot for 5% better but your better off with this for $100 less”

    But only apple users will willingly bend over take it right up the back side and say Thank you this is great. I love my new slightly faster system that costs me twice as much as it should have because it has a apple badge and apple users really dont mind being shafted.. please next time charge 3x more for it so we can be all “my mac costs this much but its great”

    some one lower down said that your avarage user couldnt reinstall the os and do all that was needed to impliment this stuff them selfs. and i was thinking of saying something to contradict them.. but having read these comments.. apple users “in general” are total idiots…
    (i appologize to the few of you that arent idiots that i saw in the comments)
    but all of you apple fan boys trying to justify paying twice as much for something just because they want you to are idiots.

    Its a fair point that intell only allowed 64Gb srt at the time of this article. but thats not true any more with 3rd party mother boards having changed that. but the truth is. if fuzion was limited to 32Gb and you had to pay 10x more for a 32gb fuzion drive You would still have found a way to justify it in your own little minds.

    any way call me up email me or face book message me..
    I’im selling the Eiffel tower and statue of liberty all for low prices. and if you cant affoard those, dont worry i can sell you any star you want to buy and name it after you under licence from the earth star and space license committee all you need to do is pay pal me $20 and il email you a certificate you can print out. “the sun has already been bought by a British tabloid paper though”

J. Glenn Künzler

Author

J. Glenn Künzler

Glenn is Managing Editor at MacTrast, and has been using a Mac since he bought his first MacBook Pro in 2006. Now he's up to his neck in Apple, and owns an old iBook, a 2012 iMac with an extra Thunderbolt display for good measure, a 4th-generation iPad, an iPad mini, 2 iPhones, and a Mac Mini that lives at the neighbor's house. He lives in a small town in Utah, enjoys bacon more than you can possibly imagine, and is severely addicted to pie.